The Holiday Inn Holidome, the hotel amusement park of yesterday

(CNN) – Indoor pools, leisure facilities, and even business centers.

These are common amenities in many hotels these days, but it wasn’t long ago that they were considered a luxury. One of the first hotel chains in the country to bring this convenience and convenience to the masses was the Holiday Inn.From the 1970s, Holiday Inn wanted to reinvent its hotels and continue to serve traveling families and business customers.

You can enjoy the pool or use one of the computers in the business center.


Step into the Holiday Inn Holidome: an air-conditioned interior that houses everything from tiki bars to shuffleboard. Instead of traveling across the country to a tropical destination, vacationers had to look no further than their own garden.

It was a trifle for the family, but it was also a great place to hold business events, said writer and producer Ross Walton. a historian for the University of Mississippi Center for Oral History and Heritage.

The large open space was also a great place for class reunions and proms. The ability to host these types of events turned the Holiday Inn into a destination instead of another hotel where travelers can rest their heads for the night.

A solution for swimming pools

George Falls cut the ribbon for the opening of the Holidom at the Holiday Inn in North Platte, Nebraska in 1974.

George Falls cut the ribbon for the opening of the Holidom at the Holiday Inn in North Platte, Nebraska in 1974.

George Falls

One of the first inspirations for the Holidome came out of necessity, said George Falls, who was a Holiday Inn vice president from 1960 to 1980.

“Swimming pools are just useless, especially in the north, nine months a year or more,” said Falls.

A Holiday Inn in North Dakota built the first Holidome to solve this problem, though it wasn’t referred to as a Holidome until Holiday Inn later adopted the idea at their other hotels. With a large covered space for a pool and other amenities, locals can now swim in a pool year-round.

Although the holidomes were popular in colder states, Walton said that the most popular holidomes from Holiday Inn were Florida.

“There’s nothing worse than taking your kids to Florida on vacation and it rains all week,” said Walton. “This is kind of vacation insurance for a lot of people.”

In the 1970s, holidomes began to sprout across the country. This particular project allowed franchisees a lot of creative freedom, which quickly turned into a competition.

“They competed to see who could have boastful rights to the biggest holidome or the most lavish production,” said Walton.

One such franchisee was DeWitt Hardin of White River Junction, Vermont. He opened his Holiday Inn in 1971 and later built a holidome for it, which was completed in 1978.

The iconic Holiday Inn sign often accompanied the Holidom.

The iconic Holiday Inn sign often accompanied the Holidom.


Unlike the tropical oasis where many of the Holidome displays were shown, Hardin’s Holidome was inspired by the city that sits on a railway line. Lush native plants surrounded a meandering pool designed to look like a lake. Children could play in an old train cabin, while adults could relax in the sauna.

“I’ll humbly tell you that our Holidome and the inclusion of activities there were the best in the United States,” Hardin said.

There’s no measure of whether Hardin’s claim is true, but it shows how proud each owner was of their Holidome and what it offered to travelers.

Magical – but expensive

Hardin’s Vermont Holidome had built-in skylights that let light flow freely through the entertainment room. At night the holidom was magical, he said, and the moonlight reflected off the pool and the gas-lit lanterns lit the room.

It was, among other things, this upper limit that contributed to the downfall of his Holidome. Hardin sold the Holiday Inn in the mid-1980s and the next owners did not invest in the upkeep of the Holidome.

Skylights have been built into the ceiling of many holidomes to let in natural light.

Skylights have been built into the ceiling of many holidomes to let in natural light.


The moisture coming from the heated pool would damage parts of the ceiling, Hardin said, making it costly to repair. The Holidome itself was also a significant investment. Hardin said it cost nearly $ 2 million to build.

Years later, he drove back to White River Junction to see his beloved hotel and found empty property instead.

“You could have knocked me over with a feather to drive down the alley and see nothing but a patch of grass,” said Hardin. “The holidome was something to take care of, and apparently these people weren’t ready to do it.”

When the holidome went out of fashion in the 1990s, many other holidomes faced a fate similar to that of Hardins. The entertainment structures may not have proven their worth, but those familiar with the hotel fondly remember them.

“It was just a new dimension to what the Holiday Inn was about,” said Falls. “We became more of a family place.”

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